Swift and sneaky rip currents readily form amid periods of aggressive wind and swell, but they can happen anytime on any beach with breaking waves. (Source: WECT)
Figthing a rip current head-on can be a deadly mistake. The best way to escape a rip current is to swim parallel to shore until you don't feel its tug. (Source: WECT)
You can find your daily rip current forecast on WECT-TV and on your WECT Weather App. Of course, when you get to the beach, seek a lifeguard's advice, too! (Source: WECT)
SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) -
Your First Alert Weather Team wants you to stay safe in the surf! Here, we’ll explain rip currents: what they are, how to spot one, what do to if you get caught in one, and how to gauge each day’s risk of these potentially dangerous currents.
WHAT IS A RIP CURRENT? A rip current is a narrow channel of swift outbound water within a surf zone. A rip current’s flow can exceed six feet per second – vigorous enough to overpower even a strong shore-bound swimmer. Though rip currents tend to form amid patterns of aggressive onshore winds and swell, any day with breaking waves can host rip currents – especially near piers, jetties, and sandbars.
HOW CAN YOU SPOT A RIP CURRENT? Spotting rip currents can be tricky, but in general, you want to look for persistent gaps or interruptions in prevailing breaking wave pattern. The water in a rip may be frothy or discolored. Lifeguards will place cautionary flags on stretches of beach vulnerable to rip currents. Yellow and red flags indicate a moderate to high risk of rip currents, respectively. Always heed the advice of lifeguards!
HOW CAN YOU ESCAPE A RIP CURRENT? If a rip current begins to pull you away from shore, resist the urge to panic, flail, or fight the current – you will quickly become exhausted and you may drown. Rather, simply swim parallel to the beach. You might be pulled away from shore as you do, but remember: rip currents are narrow – generally only a few yards wide. You will quickly escape the rip’s grip and, once to no longer feel its outbound tug, you will be free to swim shoreward.
HOW DO YOU LEARN EACH DAY’S RIP CURRENT RISK: Your First Alert Weather Team publishes a rip current forecast every day in the warm season. Find it in the free WECT Weather App > Weather Headlines > Beach and Boating Forecast. All Cape Fear Region beaches are highlighted in rip current risk categories: low, medium, and high. Remember: low risk does not mean zero risk, and lifeguards on your beach of choice always get the last word!
QUICK NOTE ON LIGHTNING: In addition to rip currents, lightning is a prime beach hazard. Remember, if you are close enough to a thunderstorm to hear thunder, you are close enough for lightning to strike you. The safest move is to head to shelter at the first sign of a summer thunderstorm!
Thanks for trusting your First Alert Weather Team. Have a happy and safe trip to the beach!